Image: Eric Baudelaire, The Anabasis of May and Fusako Shigenobu, Masao Adachi and 27 Years without Images, 2011. Film still.
In the March issue of e-flux journal Naeem Mohaiemen examines pop cultural, academic, and artistic portrayals of the Japanese Red Army. Mohaiemen notes that while Germany's Red Army Faction have been exhaustively discussed in the media and repeatedly portrayed in pop culture, the Japanese Red Army (JAR) has received relatively little attention in the West.
Mohaiemen analyzes four written or filmic inquires into the JAF: a sensationalistic nonfiction book, a sociological study, a number of Japanese "pink films," and, most interestingly, Eric Baudelaire's film The Anabasis of May and Fusako Shigenobu, Masao Adachi and 27 Years without Images (2011). According to Mohaiemen, the latter "comes closest to holding the ethnographer’s gaze on [JAF] group survivors."
The "Adachi" of the film's title is Masao Adachi, a screenwriter, filmmaker, and former JRA member. Because of his activities in the JRA, for twenty years Adachi lived in exile, a condition that Baudelaire characterizes as "anabasis." Mohaiemen writes:
Eric Baudelaire tracked down an aging Adachi. Thinking through this space of the stranded protagonist’s exile, Baudelaire introduced the idea of l’anabase, or “anabasis.” The word comes from the Greek, meaning both “to embark” and “to return.” Baudelaire uses it to indicate a “movement towards home of men who are lost, outlawed, and out of place.”
Mohaiemen praises Baudelaire's film for it's careful and haunting depiction of defeated idealism:
Baudelaire’s film on Adachi encapsulates a bittersweet look at youthful possibilities. This is a reversal of the heroic narrative we expect in these moments—uprisings that do not result in victory for the vanguard. Binary notions of failure/success do not necessarily illuminate, and sometimes even obscure, the optimism that was embedded in these moments. There was an almost impossible belief that a transformation was “just around the corner,” and all that was needed was a “little push.” Though Adachi says little about why he joined the JRA, his thoughts on “elsewhere” hint at why movements choose certain modes of confrontation “in the heat of the moment.”
Read Naeem Mohaiemen piece on the e-flux journal website.